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KHN First Edition: November 30, 2016

KHN

First Edition

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Check Kaiser Health News online for the latest headlines

Today's early morning highlights from the major news organizations.

Kaiser Health News: Price’s Appointment Boosts GOP Plans To Overhaul Medicare And Medicaid
Julie Rovner reports: "President-elect Donald Trump’s selection of Rep. Tom Price to head the Department of Health and Human Services signals that the new administration is all-in on both efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and restructure Medicare and Medicaid. Price, a Georgia Republican who currently chairs the House Budget Committee, was among the first to suggest that not just the ACA but also Medicare are on the near-term agenda for newly empowered Republicans." (Rovner, 11/29)

Kaiser Health News: Trump’s Pick To Run Medicare And Medicaid Has Red State Policy Chops
Side Effects Public Media's Jake Harper reports: "On Tuesday, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Seema Verma, a health care consultant, to head the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That’s the part of the Department of Health and Human Services that oversees Medicare, Medicaid, and the Children’s Health Insurance Program and has a budget of just under a trillion dollars in 2016.Verma comes to the job with extensive Medicaid experience. Her consulting firm, SVC, Inc., worked closely with Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to design Indiana’s Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act." (Harper, 11/29)

Kaiser Health News: Tighter Prescribing Rules: An Anti-Abuse Strategy That Could Hurt Patients In Pain
Shefali Luthra reports: "As rates of prescription painkiller abuse remain stubbornly high, a number of states are attempting to cut off the supply at its source by making it harder for doctors to prescribe the addictive pills to Medicaid patients. Recommendations on how to make these restrictions and requirements were detailed in a “best practices” guide from the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services." (Luthra, 11/30)

Kaiser Health News: Pushups In The Park: Cal State Students Lead Outdoor Exercise In Low-Income Areas
Anna Gorman reports: "The Cal State students are instructors in a free exercise program offered at parks in the San Fernando Valley, South Los Angeles, San Francisco and Stanislaus County. The participants are mostly Latino, and many had never exercised regularly before joining the group. Several have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic diseases. Irma Fuentes, 53, attends the exercise boot camp three times each week. She said it has motivated her to change her diet, lose weight and start hiking with her husband on the weekends." (Gorman, 11/30)

The New York Times: Tom Price, H.H.S. Nominee, Drafted Remake Of Health Law
In choosing Representative Tom Price of Georgia to be his health secretary, President-elect Donald J. Trump has signaled an undiminished determination to repeal President Obama’s signature domestic achievement, the Affordable Care Act, and replace it with a health law that would be far less comprehensive. And Mr. Trump is handing Republicans and their base voters what they have clamored for since the Affordable Care Act became law in 2010 — a powerful force to reverse course. (Pear, 11/29)

Politico: Tom Price's Radically Conservative Vision For American Health Care
Price, a former orthopedic surgeon and six-term House member from suburban Atlanta, has proposed policies that are more conservative than those of many House Republican colleagues. His vision for health reform hinges on eliminating much of the federal government's role in favor of a free-market framework built on privatization, state flexibility and changes to the tax code. The vast majority of the 20 million people now covered under Obamacare would have far less robust coverage — if they got anything at all. “Young, healthy and wealthy people may do quite well under this vision of health care reform,” said Larry Levitt, a senior vice president at the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation. “But the people who are older and poorer and sicker could do a lot worse.” (Cancryn, Haberkorn and Pradhan, 11/29)

NPR: Tom Price, Trump's Pick For HHS, Has An Obamacare Alternative In Mind
Price's major complaint about the ACA is that it puts the government in the middle of the doctor-patient relationship. "They believe the government ought to be in control of health care," Price said in June at the American Enterprise Institute event where Ryan unveiled the Republican proposal to replace Obamacare. "We believe that patients and doctors should be in control of health care," Price continued. "People have coverage, but they don't have care." (Kodjak, 11/29)

The Associated Press: Health Nominee Price May Find That Changing HHS Isn't Easy
As an orthopedic surgeon, Tom Price is used to calling the shots in the operating room. If confirmed to run the federal Department of Health and Human Services, the doctor-turned-congressman from Georgia may find it a lot harder to exercise authority. ... Almost everything the vast department does is circumscribed by law and regulations, and churned out through layers of bureaucracy not always in full communication with each other. (11/29)

The Associated Press: Trump Picks Price As HHS Secretary; Democrats Blast Choice
Sen. Chuck Schumer, the incoming Senate Democratic leader, said Price has proven to be far out of the mainstream of what Americans want" for health care programs and services for seniors, the disabled and women."Nominating Congressman Price to be the HHS secretary is akin to asking the fox to guard the hen house," Schumer said. (11/29)

The Washington Post: Trump Just Named A New Health Secretary Who Might Push To Undo One Of His Biggest Promises
Donald Trump ran for president as a conservative populist, not a traditional Republican. He blasted free trade deals. He embraced massive government infrastructure spending. And he promised to safeguard two massive - and massively popular - safety-net programs for older Americans, Social Security and Medicare. “You can’t get rid of Medicare," Trump said in a press conference in the fall of 2015, during the Republican primaries. "It’d be a horrible thing to get rid of. It actually works." Those positions boosted Trump electorally, particularly among aging whites in the industrial Midwest, where he secured his Electoral College victory. (Tankersley, 11/29)

The Washington Post: Trump Turns To Conservative Tacticians To Run HHS And Medicare, Medicaid
President-elect Donald Trump’s choices for health secretary and administrator of the government’s largest health insurance programs have for years pursued a sharply conservative agenda that includes redefining Medicare, placing “personal responsibility” requirements on low-income recipients of Medicaid, and dismantling the Affordable Care Act. If adopted, this agenda could dramatically alter access to insurance and medical services for more than 100 million Americans covered through the two entitlement programs and the ACA. (Goldstein and Viebeck, 11/29)

Los Angeles Times: Trump Pledged To Protect Medicare. His Choice For Health Secretary Has Other Ideas
In tapping Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to be his Health and Human Services secretary, [Trump] has elevated one of the most aggressive proponents of dramatically overhauling the government safety net for seniors and low-income Americans, a long-held conservative goal. Trump also took a step toward a potentially explosive political battle over the entitlements, which account for close to half of all federal spending.Such a battle — and the threat of benefit cuts to more than 100 million Americans — risks alienating some of the very working-class voters who fueled Trump’s unexpected victory. (Levey and Bierman, 11/29)

The Associated Press: HHS Nominee Price Opposes Obamacare, Backs Medicare Vouchers
As chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price emerged as a top advocate of Speaker Paul Ryan's plan to transform Medicare from a program that supplies a defined set of benefits into a "premium support" model that would, similar to Obamacare, offer subsidies for participants to purchase health care directly from insurance companies. He also wants the Medicare eligibility age to rise to 67. (11/29)

USA Today: Trump Nominee For Health Programs Signals Changes Ahead
As governor of Indiana, Mike Pence created an alternative Medicaid program he hoped could be a national model for revamping the joint federal and state health care program for the poor. On Tuesday, the architect of Pence’s program, which requires participants to make monthly contributions, was tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to head the agency which oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs. (Groppe and Cook, 11/29)

The Washington Post: CMS Nominee Set Up Indiana’s Unusual Medicaid Expansion
Verma’s approach to expanding the state’s Medicaid program was unusual and somewhat controversial. In return for significant choice in their health coverage and enhanced benefits, the plan required many of the state’s poorest residents to contribute a few dollars into health savings accounts, then purchase their own insurance with help from the state. The idea was to make sure that the newly covered patients had some skin in the game when they made their health-care decisions. (Bernstein, 11/29)

The Associated Press: GOP Could Repeal, Before Replacing, Obamacare
Congress may vote to repeal President Barack Obama's health care law before coming up with a replacement, GOP leaders said Tuesday. The approach could allow congressional Republicans to take swift action on one of President-elect Donald Trump's campaign promises, while putting off the hard part. And while repealing the law could be done with GOP votes alone, any replacement plan would likely require the cooperation of minority Democrats in the Senate, something that will not be easy to come by. (11/29)

Reuters: Health Industry Breathes Easier As Post-Obamacare Path Stabilizes
Hospitals and health insurers are gaining confidence that their nightmare scenario - millions of Americans instantly losing health insurance once President-elect Donald Trump delivers on a promise to "repeal and replace" Obamacare - is looking more like a bad dream than becoming reality. The early view from the healthcare sector still includes an end eventually to President Obama's signature health program. But Trump's picks to head the U.S. health department and its top regulator on Tuesday, along with his recent softening on some aspects of the existing law, is a sign to some sector insiders that instead of chaos, an orderly transition of up to three years to replace it with a plan that healthcare companies actually want could be in store. (Humer, Berkrot and Krauskopf, 11/29)

USA Today: Regulators Approve Higher Health Premiums To Strengthen Obamacare Insurers
State insurance regulators across the country have approved health care premium increases higher than those requested by insurers, despite a national effort to keep rates for policies sold on Affordable Care Act exchanges from skyrocketing, a USA TODAY analysis shows. In eight states, regulators approved premiums that were a percentage point or more higher than carriers wanted, said Charles Gaba, a health data expert at ACASignups.net who analyzed the rates for USA TODAY. As of Tuesday, those states are Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota and Utah. (Lee and O'Donnell, 11/29)

NPR: 21st Century Cures Act Appears To Be On Verge Of Passage
Legislation to bolster medical research and revamp the way new drugs and medical devices are approved is on the fast track through a Congress that has had little success to celebrate this year. The House could vote Wednesday on a vast bill that stretches nearly a thousand pages and holds changes large and small for the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration. (Harris, 11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Drug, Medical-Device Bill Headed For Floor Votes
A $6.3 billion bill heading for a vote in the final weeks before adjournment could provide an infusion of money for biomedical research and opioid-addiction therapy while taking steps favored by drug and medical-device companies to ease federal approvals of their products. The measure would wrap in provisions based on a bill sponsored by Rep. Tim Murphy (R., Pa.) and passed by the House in July aimed at improving patients’ access to mental-health treatment. (Burton, 11/29)

The Associated Press: Top Democrat On Ways And Means To Step Down From Post
Rep. Sander Levin, the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, will not seek re-election to his panel post, clearing the way for a younger lawmaker to grab the spot on the powerful committee. In a letter to his colleagues late Tuesday, the 85-year-old Levin informed them of his decision and said he wanted to do his part to ensure that the Democrats are united in stopping President-elect Donald Trump and Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., as they try to take the country in a different direction and “turn back the clock on progress we have made.” (11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: U.S. Stocks Edge Higher, Led By Health-Care Gains
U.S. stocks edged higher Tuesday, as gains in health-care stocks helped offset losses in the energy sector. Stocks have rallied in the weeks since the Nov. 8 presidential election, sending the S&P 500, Dow Jones Industrial Average, Nasdaq Composite and the Russell 2000 index of small-capitalization companies to fresh records. All four indexes declined Monday, stalling the rally. But health-care shares led U.S. stocks higher again Tuesday. (Otani and Gold, 11/29)

NPR: Fewer People Are Struggling To Pay Medical Bills
The number of people who have trouble paying their medical bills has plummeted in the last five years as more people have gained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act and gotten jobs as the economy has improved. A report from the National Center for Health Statistics released Wednesday shows that the number of people whose families are struggling to pay medical bills fell by 22 percent, or 13 million people, in the last five years. (Kodjak, 11/30)

NPR: New Zika Cases Fall In Puerto Rico, But Health Effects
The number of new Zika cases in Puerto Rico has dropped dramatically in recent weeks, yet health officials worry the full effect of the outbreak on the island may not be known for months or years to come. Puerto Rico has confirmed more than 34,000 Zika infections since the virus was first detected on the island in November 2015. (Beaubien, 11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: Sanofi Partnership Passes First Test With Delivery Of Antibiotic Compounds
Sanofi SA has received its first set of drug compounds from its collaboration with a Harvard University scientist and his venture backers that aims to jump-start discovery of new medicines. The collaboration, a biotech named Warp Drive Bio, said it has delivered a few dozen compounds to Sanofi, and the French drug company hopes to turn them into antibiotics for fighting drug-resistant infections, like flesh-eating bacteria. (Rockoff, 11/29)

The Washington Post: White, Rural Drug Users Lack Needle Exchange Programs To Prevent HIV Infections
Needle-sharing by opiate addicts is placing rural white communities at much greater risk of new HIV infections than ever before, and the United States doesn’t have enough syringe programs in place to address the problem, according to a federal report released Tuesday. Although needle exchange programs have been politically controversial for decades, studies have demonstrated their public health benefits in dramatically reducing the rate of HIV transmission and risk of hepatitis infections among injection drug users without increasing the rate of illegal drug use. (Sun, 11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: DEA Bans A Cousin Of Deadly Synthetic Opioid Fentanyl
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration on Tuesday added furanyl fentanyl, a deadly cousin of the synthetic opioid fentanyl, to its most restrictive list of controlled substances. The ban comes as the DEA tries to thwart the fast-evolving market for synthetic opioids, including several fentanyl analogues and relics from old pharmaceutical research like the chemical U-47700. (Kamp, 11/29)

The Wall Street Journal: More Whites Die Than Are Born In One-Third Of States
More white people are dying than being
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